A great big American Flag waved in the adventure that is the Bikers for Bini event at the Staten Island Mall, this past Sunday, August 24. If you missed the first half of this adventure, be sure to read part 1. If you’re type of adventure involves charity and motorcycles, part 1 is for you. If you’re type of adventure is all about fast and loud cars, welcome to part 2.
Pete’s Reimagined T-Bucket
The first car that I was immediately magnetically drawn to was a 1923 Ford. It was a homemade recreation that took four years for its owner, Pete, to make. I approached Pete while there was a confusion if whether or not the National Anthem was being sung or not, and frustration over the bird shit on his roof from the rumored “hawk” devastating the fleet of shiny colorful cars in attendance.
His car is a creation of his own design, a reimagining of a T-bucket. Nothing was made from measurements; every curve and joint was his own decision in order to make his perfect version of the classic. It features only used parts that have been redone and refurbished. The body is a 1923 Ford body, but it’s made from fiberglass in place of metal, including the fenders over the tires, which was never part of the original (same goes for the roof). The motor is from a 69 Chevy built for racing, pushing out 600 horse power. On top of all this is a $35 paint job‑because it isn’t about dumping money into your car, it’s about taking the time and love to shop around for the perfect parts‑and that paint job looked great on his car; you would never guess it was $35.
Pete was proud to attend, noticing how great the participation was, and that an event of this size is not cheap to put on. He noted that not too long ago events like this were in short supply. Everybody was doing drag racing, not putting their money into the aesthetics of their cars. Now people want to bring back those magical things that have been left behind in the progression of the automotive industry. Cars toady, they’re “junk. Plastic Garbage.” He explains that in remaking cars, you have to look at every part. You can’t put something old next to something modern. “Sometimes you see some really gory [ugly] cars.”
Pete explained how he’s been remaking cars to his own unique specifications for years. He once even put a tow truck winch on an old Chevy El Camino because he liked the way it looked. It wasn’t a functional choice (for starters, an El Camino is way too low to pick anything heavy up like a car), it was just for show, something unique. Pete concluded our meeting by saying, “I’m doing great; I got out in the the sun, I changed my shirt, and I’m ready to part-ay!”
Anthony’s Supercar Performance Level Lotus
I knew I had to get a sports car in the mix, so I singled out a bumblebee yellow 2005 Lotus Elise. It’s owner, Anthony, got it in 2004 as one of the first of these cars to come off the boat to the Hudson Harbor. His is highly modified from that original version, putting in a turbo charger and a 330 horse power engine capable of 260 lbs of torque (upgraded from the factory 190 horse power and 130 lbs. of torque engine). It can do 0 to 60 in around 3.1 seconds.
Anthony pointed out that while there are some great roads in Jersey, he’s bottomed out a few times, and is often slaloming (swerving side to side) to avoid potholes. So, with such a beautiful car, he had to drive it outside of the East Coast, out west to California, going up and down the Pacific Coast Highway and Mulholland Canyon.
“I met Jay Leno out there. He had his McLaren P1, the new yellow one, the only one in the country. I have pictures with him. It’s just a really nice car scene there.”
I like that Anthony didn’t shackle his baby to his garage, but knows how to enjoy it for what it was designed to do. “It’s a lot of fun to drive because it is so lightweight, and so telepathic because there’s not much inertia so it does everything so fluidly without much effort, nothing is very dramatic. This is very different from other cars because they may have a lot of horse power and big brakes, but you always feel the weight of the car, with this you feel connected immediately, and that’s what it makes it so much fun. I mean, it looks cool, but the real brilliance of it is to drive it. Colin Chapman’s motto was to ‘add lightness.’
“It’s kind of like, you ever do the go-karts, the powerful ones? It’s like that but on the highway. It feels like you’re driving something illegal.”
With 1.8 liter 4 cylinder Toyota engine and 1,900 lbs. (the chassis is bonded aluminum and only weighs 15 lbs.), his Lotus is actually quite good on gas, getting about 35 miles to the gallon.
Anthony went on to explain his philosophy on being a car owner: “A lot of vehicles try to do everything; they try to be luxury and try to be a sports car, but I always say, use the right tool for the right job. Get two different cars. If you want a luxury car, get a luxury car. If you want a sports car, get a proper sports car. Don’t try to do everything because then it winds up doing nothing for you. So I have a Jeep Wrangler, Sahara edition. I go out on dates in it, I go mess in snow and in dirt. I have that as my daily driver.
“I also have my old school muscle car because everybody has to have one of those. I have a 1977 Trans Am Smokey and the Bandit edition, the black with the gold trim.” Once in a while, Anthony brings out the Smokey and the Bandit car to shows, but with the Lotus he’s found that the younger kids react to it a lot more because they recognize it from their videogames, and because the Lotus is so small, the kids can feel themselves driving it when they sit behind the wheel.
Dan’s Original Shelby Cobra
At the back corner of the parking lot was a 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C (meaning Super Competition). It is an all aluminum body featuring 550 horse power engine, and the whole thing weighs 2,300 lbs. The car is an American classic, built by Carroll Shelby, and Dan has all of the documents for the car signed by Carroll Shelby, as well as the passenger dash where the glove box would normally be (but was removed to save weight as this is a racing car).
Dan is the second owner, buying it from the original owner with only 4,200 miles on it. It didn’t require any major work when he bought it, only some normal maintenance throughout the years, which he relies on local Staten Island shop, SIC Performance, to keep his beauty in tip-top condition.
He loves to drive his prized possession around, but only on nice days as it has no top. He remarked that it’s an odd thing that the windshield of the car features window wipers, seeing as with no top, no one would ever drive one in the rain.
I was lucky enough to have Dan start it up for me, and could that puppy roar. It drives a bit stiff from the “Super Suspension” which is designed for a racing car. The Shelby doesn’t have an exhaust like the one traditionally found on cars, but in it’s place are pipes that run straight through from the engine to along the sides below the coupe’s doors. Dan had me feel the pipes after he had started up the car, which couldn’t have been running for longer than 30 seconds, and they were already quite hot. It is common for people to burn their legs from this, but Dan luckily never has.
The car is approximately valued between $100,000 to $150,000. It has a 22 gallon fuel cell and the battery is behind the seats, putting it in the middle of the car to balance the weight, improving performance. Dan has never taken it over 70mph because as he puts it, “I’m still getting used to it,” and I don’t blame him because the racer doesn’t have any airbags or a roll cage (only a roll bar behind the driver’s seat, which, between that and the double white racer strip running through the center of the car, gives the Shelby its signature look).
The Shelby Cobra is an interesting car. It’s clearly designed for racing, but features some oddities that hint for it to be an everyday car such as its functional trunk and those peculiar window wipers.
On the other side of the stage from the Shelby were four cars sectioned off with each other, all remodels of famous television vehicles known around the world: Nightrider, the Batmobile, the Striped Tomato (the Ford Grand Torino from Starsky and Hutch), and the General Lee (the Dodge Charger from Dukes of Hazard).
I had the opportunity to meet Anna Marie, who built the Batmobile with her husband, Louie Magnifico, and three other friends 6 ½ years ago. When George Barris made the original Batmobile, there were 5 different versions of the car for the different ways it was used on the show. Their car is a collection of their favorite parts of those 5 different Batmobiles, and is rumored to have a lot of the firepower witnessed in the show, such as rockets, saw blade, and the Batcomputer. How true this may be is a closely guarded secret, just like the address of the Batmobile, the Batcave.
I also had the opportunity to meet the owner of the Striped Tomato, Tommy. He had only gotten the car 3 weeks ago, when he neglected the advice to “never buy anything sight unseen.” His risk payed off. It cost him less than $10,000 dollars to get a functional remodel of an American classic. He was able to drive the car to the show, but says it needs a little work. He has some cars back home he can pull parts from, but this is his first Ford, so it may take a little extra tinkering around.
Wherever the owners of Nightrider and the General Lee were, I never could find them. I don’t blame them from straying from their cars though; after all, who could resist the temptation of that sea of motorized magnificence.